James Nicholas is the 2017 MGA Player of the Year
Nicholas lines up a putt with his caddie and younger brother, Brian, at the Met Amateur.
ELMSFORD, N.Y. (October 31, 2017) – Following a breakout season by James Nicholas of Westchester Country Club, the Metropolitan Golf Association is pleased to announce the 20-year-old Scarsdale, N.Y., native as the recipient of the 2017 MGA Jerry Courville Sr. Player of the Year Award. Nicholas compiled a stellar record through the summer, with high finishes in all three MGA Majors—the Ike, Met Amateur, and Met Open—propelling him to the coveted honor. The award will be presented to Nicholas at the MGA’s 120th Annual Meeting and Dinner on Wednesday, December 6 at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y.
The MGA Jerry Courville Sr. Player of the Year Award is presented annually to the Met Area amateur who compiles the best record in select events during the course of the year. It is based on a system in which players earn points for their finishes in designated local, national, and international championships.
Nicholas’ point accumulations began with a run to the semifinals of the Westchester Amateur. His strong start continued the following weeks with a tie for third at the Hochster Memorial and a tie for fifth in the 62nd Ike Championship Presented by Callaway, while a win at the Arcola Cup solidified his spot among early season contenders for the award.
Nicholas entered the season with a positive outlook, having a sharpened focus on his game, which he grew up playing for just several months a year. “This past winter marked the first winter that I was able to actually work on my game,” said Nicholas, who worked with his coach Gary Weir through the winter months. “This allowed me to come into the golf season prepared and already in summer form.”
Cuts made in both the Westchester and New York State opens led to low amateur and third low amateur finishes, respectively, and placed him inside the top five on the player of the year listing entering the points-heavy month of August.
Nicholas tied fifth in stroke play qualifying for the 115th Met Amateur Championship at Laurel Links Country Club, setting up a run to the semifinals behind a 1-up victory over New Jersey Open winner Luke Graboyes of Watchung Valley (who turned pro later in the season) and a 20-hole win against Ethan Ng of Fiddler’s Elbow. While Nicholas earned another 150 points, Darlington’s Matt Mattare—who had already finished as runner-up in the New Jersey Mid-Am and Ike, and won the GAP Open—earned the victory and built more than a 150-point lead over Nicholas.
The former Scarsdale football and hockey standout continued his consistent play with a tie for eighth in the New York State Amateur, closing the gap on Mattare by 50 points. Nicholas then jetted to the west coast for his first-ever appearance in the U.S. Amateur, which he qualified for in July. He posted rounds of one-under 69 at The Riviera Country Club and two-over 72 at Bel Air Country Club, easily advancing to match play. Despite a narrow defeat in his opening match, his 125 points earned him a slim 16-point lead on Mattare.
Nicholas’ final point opportunity before returning to school came in the 102nd Met Open Championship Presented by Callaway at Hollywood Golf Club. With the pressure on, Nicholas coolly fired rounds of 70-69-71, finishing tied for fifth and tied as low amateur alongside 2015 MGA Player of the Year Cameron Young of Sleepy Hollow at three-under. The high finish amassed Nicholas a season-high 243 points, while Mattare only accumulated 50 points for his finish in the championship.
While several point-eligible events remained during September and October, no competitor was able to eclipse Nicholas’ season total of 958 points.
“To be added to the list of MGA Jerry Courville Sr. Player of the Year Award winners is truly an honor as this list contains some of the game’s greatest amateur golfers,” said Nicholas, a junior at Yale. “As a kid, I always looked up to guys like Buckley, Miller, Pastore, Saladino, and of course Mr. Zahringer. I can't believe that my name will be added alongside theirs.”
Nicholas’ previous high finish in the player of the year listing came in 2016, when he accumulated 213 points and finished 22nd. While he had certainly shown flashes of brilliance in recent years, Nicholas’ level of play and consistency were both elevated to an entirely new level in 2017—showing he truly belongs with the Met’s best competitors.
A runner-up finish in the New York State Amateur and a win in the MGA Mid-Am at Bayonne launched Darin Goldstein of Deepdale to second in the year-long race (752 points), while Mattare finished third (749). Ike champion Matthew Lowe of Colonial Springs finished fourth, while Jonathan Jeter of Nassau Players rounds out the top five. Brad Tilley of Sleepy Hollow, Thomas LaMorte of Haworth, Trevor Randolph of Arcola, John Felitto Jr. of Echo Lake, and Dawson Jones of Jumping Brook complete the top 10 Honor Roll listing.